Sunday, 28 February 2010

153 Sqn. Feb 28th 1945 - Neuss



These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

The last day of February saw 15 aircraft set off in atrocious weather for a daylight attack on Neuss. They were recalled before reaching their target, and had to land (with all bombs aboard) in the same unfriendly conditions. Because they had not crossed the Mandrell screen, despite the distance flown, this sortie did not count as an operation.

Mandrell

In the first six months of 1944, unlike the USAAF, RAF Bomber Command's offensive was struggling against the renewed German efforts to outsmart the British in the technological war. Bomber Command introduced 'Window', known to the Germans as 'Düppel', consisting of small aluminium strips would be dropped by formations to blanket German radar and make it difficult for the defences to pick out the real position of the raiders. The German's introduced the Wilde Sau tactics, in which roving single-engine fighter aircraft would attack formations alone. The tactics had limited success. To combat these new German tactics, Bomber Command shortened its attacks over the target by five minutes to reduce chances of interception. This was followed by spoof routes, used to feint the routes of attacks. Later the use of "Mandrel" airborne jamming screens were used to send the enemy into the wrong area and deny the German fighters the chance of reaching the target bomber stream in sufficient strength.




landing with bombs on board is not something the aircraft were designed to do. The weight of bombs increased the speed of the aircraft on approach and significantly reduced maneuverability. These factors, added to the possibility of bombs releasing and detonating accidentally on landing, especially if an aircraft made a last minute forced landing, would have weighed heavily on the crews mind.

If an aircraft was returning damaged or with a malfunction which would impede or complicate landing, then bombs on board could be jettisoned while at sea if permission was granted, or if necessary at the pilots discretion.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Ruler of All I Survey............



Hullo ma wee blog,

I'm here at the kitchen table, coffee in hand, having dropped off the lovely G at Dunbar station for her usual morning train. Instead of heading off to work as normal though, she is heading on out to the airport for a weekend at her aunts house in Switzerland as her aunt is currently laid up after an operation to her foot. This means I have the weekend to myself and I am therefore ' master of my own destiny' for a couple of days.

So after coffee and breakfast I will be heading off across country to Irvine and my solicitor brother to help him with some important research. There has been a small micro brewery opened up near him and its critical that they get some product testing done and some feedback on the quality of their merchandise.

Tough job but someone's got to do it.

see you later.

Listening to Suzanne Vega 'My name is Luca'

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

153 Sqn. Feb 23rd 1945 - Pforzheim



These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.


Unfortunately for Pforzheim, a town on the northern edge of the Black Forest, the 23rd February was a clear night when it received its sole Bomber Command raid. Despite some nightfighter activity, the attack went in at 8,000 feet, resulting in devastatingly accurate bombing; the rail yard was totally destroyed, as was some 80% of the town's built-up area.

The paragraph above is how 153 Sqn records the raid on Pforzheim.

The following paragraph is how Bomber command recorded it.

The total raid was conducted by 367 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 6 and 8 Groups and a Film Unit Lancaster carried out the first, and only, area-bombing raid of the war on Pforzheim. 10 Lancasters were lost and 2 more crashed in France. The marking and bombing, from only 8,000 ft, were particularly accurate and damage of a most severe nature was inflicted on Pforzheim. 1,825 tons of bombs were it dropped in 22 minutes. The post-war British Bombing Survey Unit estimated that 83 per cent of the town's built-up area was destroyed, probably the greatest proportion in one raid during the war.


BACKGROUND TO THE RAID

A report compiled for RAF Bomber Command dated 28 June 1944, stated that Pforzheim was "one of the centres of the German jewellery and watch making trade and is therefore likely to have become of considerable importance to the production of precision instruments [of use in the war effort]." An Allied report issued in August 1944 stated that "almost every house in this town centre is a small workshop" and that there were a few larger factories in the south and one in the north of the city centre. An attack on the city would destroy the "built-up area, the associated industries and rail facilities". There were no war-crucial targets only war-relevant ones.

In November 1944, Pforzheim was placed for the first time on a target list of the Allied Forces, but with the lowest priority of category five. In that report the city was described as being very suitable for a raid, because the road and rail communications through the old city was known to be very flammable. Pforzheim was used in the transfer of troops.

Detlef Siebert wrote for the BBC History website "Some of them, like Würzburg or Pforzheim, were selected primarily because they were easy for the bombers to find and destroy. Because they had a medieval centre, they were expected to be particularly vulnerable to fire attack."

REALITY OF BOMBING

There is always a human cost to war and perhaps this is as good a time as any to recount some of the impact on the ground as felt by the population of this small and relatively unimportant town on the edge of the black forest.



The large raid that almost completely destroyed the inner city district occurred on the evening of February 23, 1945. The first bombs were dropped at 19:50 and the last one at 20:12. The attack on "Yellowfin", the code name for Pforzheim, included 379 aircraft. It dropped almost half a million bombs with a total weight of 1,825 tonnes. The bombs were a by now standard mix of high explosive and phosphorus incendiary bombs. The core area of the town suffered immediate destruction and a firestorm broke out, reaching its most devastating phase about 10 minutes from the start of the raid. The smoke over the town rose to about 3,000 meters, and the returning bomber crews could still see the glare of the fire up to 160 kilometers away.

In an area about 3 kilometers long and 1.5 kilometers wide, all buildings were reduced to rubble. 17,600 citizens were officially counted as dead and thousands were injured. People died from the immediate impact of explosions, from burns due to burning phosphorus materials that seeped through basement windows into the cellars of houses where they hid, from lack of oxygen and poisonous gases, and from collapsing walls of houses. Some of them drowned in the Enz or Nagold rivers into which they had jumped while trying to escape from the burning phosphorus materials in the streets, but even the rivers were burning as the phosphorus floated on the water.

After the attack, about 30,000 people had to be fed by makeshift public kitchens because their housing had been destroyed. Almost 90% of the buildings in the core city area had been destroyed. Many Pforzheim citizens were buried in common graves at Pforzheim's main cemetery because they could not be identified. There are many graves of complete families.

The inner city districts were almost totally depopulated. According to the State Statistics Bureau (Statistisches Landesamt), in the Market Square area (Marktplatzviertel) in 1939 there were 4,112 registered inhabitants, in 1945 none (0). In the Old Town area (Altstadtviertel) in 1939 there were 5,109 inhabitants, in 1945 only 2 persons were still living there. In the Leopold Square area, in 1939 there were 4,416 inhabitants, in 1945 only 13.


AFTERMATH

Some surviving allied aircrew were killed when they fell into the hands of German civilians. Four weeks after the Pforzheim main raid, the British crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress bailed out near Pforzheim where they were captured, and six of them were shot at the nearby village of Huchenfeld. One member managed to escape but was later recaptured and taken to a POW camp.

Follow up - info via the forgiveness project.

Tom Tate (England)

In March 1945, airman Tom Tate was on special duties over Germany when his B17 Flying Fortress was hit by fire. The crew bailed out. Seven of them were captured a few hours later near the village of Huchenfeld, close to the town of Pforzheim. A month earlier Pforzheim had been destroyed in a massive RAF bombing raid killing 18,000 people. Revenge was in the air. The British airmen were dragged to a nearby cemetery to be executed by a Hitler Youth lynch mob. Only Tom and one other crewmember escaped.

They wanted to kill us in the school, but the mayor of the village refused, saying that blood would be on the heads of the children for all time. So we were dragged outside and down the hill. When I realised we were about to be killed, a sudden burst of energy overcame me and I ran for it. I was barefoot and exhausted, but somehow I got away. The next day I was recaptured by the German army and taken to a POW camp by two Luftwaffe escorts. I was treated according to the Geneva Convention and assured that my comrades were safe. One of my escorts even handed me a pair of boots. He explained that a woman in Huchenfeld, hearing of my plight, had sent them to me.

After the war, back in England, the RAF asked me to return to Pforzheim to find out what had happened to the missing crew. So back I went, and turning into the cemetery in Huchenfeld I knew instantly what had happened, for there in front of me were five wooden crosses.

The perpetrators of the crime were brought to justice at the War Crimes trials in Essen the following year, and the ringleaders were sentenced to death. I had no compassion. I despised them and said to my wife that I was never going back to Germany.

But then, 50 years later, a fellow golf player mentioned a possible holiday to the Rhine. It was a SAGA holiday, and with their brochure came a magazine. For weeks it lay unopened by my fireplace, until I finally took it out of its plastic cover. It fell open at a double-page spread, which read: “The Village that asked Forgiveness.” I couldn’t believe it – it was all about Huchenfeld and the executions.

I read how Pastor Heinemann-Grüder had arranged a memorial plaque to the five British airmen murdered in his church. On the plaque was written “Vater Vergib” (father forgive). Many people still had that terrible event on their conscience. Only the widow of one of the murdered airmen had been traced, but press interest meant that the pilot, John Wynne, eventually contacted the village too. He had taken a rocking horse and presented it to the new kindergarten in Huchenfeld as a gesture of reconciliation. It was called Hoffnung – the rocking horse of hope.

I contacted John Wynne through the magazine. He couldn’t believe we’d found each other after so many years. “You have to go to Pforzheim,” he urged me. “For years people have longed to meet a survivor to express their shame and horror. They want forgiveness.”

A short while later I received a letter from a couple, Renate and Gotthilf Beck-Ehninger, who were very involved in the reconciliation process but hadn’t known I was still alive. They were so thrilled to find me, and invited me to the commemoration ceremony in 1995. Renate wrote: “I was only nine when Pforzheim was raided, and you were in your youth when you saw the abyss, the darkest depth of human nature.”

I didn’t attend the actual ceremony because I still felt in danger, imagining someone might want to finish the job off. But when I arrived the following week I was given such an enthusiastic welcome. It was clear I had become a symbol of reconciliation. I was greeted by so many people, all of whom wanted to shake my hand. I’ve never been hugged by so many ladies in all my life! I also met Emilie, the woman who in 1945 had sent me the boots.

Guilt had hung over the village for years, but by going there it somehow changed things for them. I was so welcomed, and so well looked after, that suddenly I realised I’d made a mistake. I wish that I’d gone to Germany earlier to relieve these people of their guilt.

High Flight.




Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings,
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun split clouds - and done a hundred things you
Have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung,
High in the sunlit silence, hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air,
Up, up the long delirious blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark nor even eagle flew,
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod,
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

written September 1941
by John Gillespie Magee Jr
19 year old pilot officer, Royal Canadian Air Force
died 11 December 1941.

Write, right?..............



Hullo ma wee blog,

When I started blogging, like most of us I suppose, I was looking for an outlet, a means of getting something out there. At the time I had just had huge upheaval in my life as Dad had recently died after the most intense 18 months of effort and emotion that my brother, G and I had ever expended to keep him independent but safe and supported as his health visibly declined. Then, to top that all off, two weeks later I was made redundant, out of the blue and in what I was later able to prove was an unfair manner. This in turn led me to a battle with my employer, initially forcing them to delay redundancy for almost two months after most of my colleagues had bitten the dust and then on through an unfair redundancy claim and legal battle on the road to an industrial tribunal.

Oh, and I was looking for a job.

At the time I started blogging I needed something to give me a release from the pressure I was feeling, a diversion away from the problems and a way of expressing myself as I quickly came to realise that in my working life I had foolishly sacrificed much that I shouldn't have; friendships, contact, diversity, outside interests and the like. Slowly over time I had let slip people I had loved, liked and respected, things I had enjoyed and looked forward to. Things that had fulfilled me in lots of ways. In their place I had transplanted huge amounts of work and work based relationships. Luckily I had also found someone who could love me and see things in me that perhaps I couldn't see myself. In losing perspective of this work/life balance I was setting myself up to suffer horribly when the work aspect of it was cut off without warning. To a large extent, I let my job validate who I was. Stupid, stupid, stupid, I know, but hindsight truly is a wonderful thing.

Turning to blogging, which I could switch on switch off at whim, gave me the ability to launch stuff out there without having to even think if it was read or not, or by whom. It was an opportunity I thought, to ditch some of the fear, anger, worry and disgust immediately, at little risk to either me personally or certainly to my home life. It could give me a place to vent while protecting the lovely G from some, and only some, of the nonsense that was going on inside.

I started by saying that I would treat the blog like an imaginary friend and that's what I have tried to do. It's why every, or every 'personal' post starts off with "Hullo ma wee blog" and ends with "see you later". I have found that it's been a good friend. It's been non judgemental for a start and you can't believe how important that has been. I've tried to be truthful in postings and I don't think I have ever written a post and not published. Many times I have switched on the blog and not had a scooby what I was going to write and at the end, after a wee bit of an edit and letting spellcheck work its limited magic, have sat back and thought "Jings!" Where did that come from?"

What has satisfied me most about the blog, or rather 'my' relationship with it, is that I haven't predominantly used it to rage. I haven't used it to be an angry, venomous, vicious and bitter man - or at least I don't think so. Almost immediately the medium of the blog showed me that I am far from negative. I have a sense of humour, of the ironic and the absurd. I'm not completely self centered. I can see things in perspective and often see the best in situations. That was an important lesson to learn, especially at that time. It showed too that I can be completely in awe of simple things; a sunny day, morning, drunken butterflies, the local farm coming to life, or a blogger with a greater grasp of a concept, language, grammar, punctuation or a million other tiny things. I can be grumpy and still have fun. I think in reality that the blog has focused me on these things to the exclusion of the more negative aspects of my situation. That's helped enormously. I'm not saying it's made me perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it's made me realise that I naturally stop and think, observe and consider things which in the past would have fleetingly passed during a car journey or a working day to be left in the moment, forgotten and never mentioned again. It's reaffirmed how analytical I can be. Having the blog has let me savour some things, understand how I value them and a myriad others, often inconsequential and insignificant, by describing them to ma wee bloggy pal. This has in turn has led me to find a way, a means, a style of communicating things.

It's helped me find a voice.

It may not be big and it certainly may not be important in the big scheme of things but I have found a voice for the blog and it's just mine.

{Over time, as I have played around with subjects or interpretation of my reminiscences, interests or reactions to what is going on around me, I have developed a personality in the way I get stuff down on to the {virtual} page. My blog feels slower to me than speaking, probably due to the way I type which is another improving aspect of my blogging journey. I seem to have found a way which at times evokes a quite profound reaction in those of you that follow the output of my brain cell. I'm not sure if over time the voice has been changed in turn by those {helpful and encouraging} comments and feedback or vice versa but I can see looking back at some of the earliest posts that things have changed.}

It's great when someone takes the time to let you know you have moved them though.

The overriding facet of the blog for me is that I really, truly am enjoying it. I've never written anything before, even my teenage attempts at keeping a diary only ran to two weeks of embarrassing largely pubescent angst and drivel. {the whole episode reminded to me years later by Mum who gave me back my attempt at a diary with a knowing smile and a comment that she had found it when clearing out cupboards} I've never been able to sustain anything like the blog. It's surprising. I thought that it might be a bit cathartic, but I also thought that I would probably last for a few weeks and then it would peter out to die a natural death, that it wouldn't really be 'my kind of thing'. I don't think I ever really expected to be still punting stuff out almost a year later or that I would have posted almost one hundred and fifty articles and be having fun doing it.

In the beginning I didn't say to the lovely G what I was doing. She had seen me look at blogs a couple of times and had been dismissive. When I started I just kept schtuum. It wasn't until about six weeks into it that I told her and she was sceptical to say the least. She insisted that I didn't post any photos of her, which wasn't something I had considered and removed the only example that was there - it was actually a photo of one of the cats in truth. That rule has more than comfortably continued and to date there are no photos of either of us on the blog. With that sole proviso she left me to it, thinking no doubt that it would die the natural death of all phases and new year resolutions, the death of neglect. Shortly she came to realise that booting up the laptop was the first thing I did in the morning and that oft times during the night I would be blogging away when insomnia or worry kept me from her side. {Being a woman} Eventually suspicion or nosiness forced her to have a look at what I was writing and at first she didn't believe it was me. The reason? "Because it was good".

Over time she has become a fan and I have just recently found that this very private person has been dropping the blog into conversations at work, with her clients and practically anyone she talks to and as a result one or two more potential regulars are hovering in the background.

I've tried to stay true to what I would call the mission statement of the blog too - the blurb under the header - I don't deliberately try to offend, but it's done to my taste and no one elses, so I'm not deliberately trying not to offend either. Luckily also to date I haven't had one comment which indicates twit, twat or twaddle, so that's all to the good too. Without exception comments I've received from other bloggers have all been generous, positive and encouraging, which seems to be the way of bloggers as I have found nothing abusive on any comments board I have visited. As mentioned in an earlier post, I have found or been led to a group of people with hugely diverse interests and backgrounds, to blogs which are vastly different in style, emotion and content, but which have their own distinct personality or voice as I call it.

In the course of comment 'conversations' there have been a few who suggested that some of the posts what I wrote {sorry Little Ern, couldn't resist!} were of such good quality that I should think about writing something more. Although 'everyone has a book in them' {allegedly even Scudder has been writing one for who knows how long} it never crossed my mind that my middle of the night meanderings would generate that kind of comment. My lovely G too has continued to heap praise on me about how really impressed she is with the blog and that perhaps I should do something about it. {Sounds suspiciously like a plan to make me work don't you think?}

I see the blog and writing as a bit of fun. It keeps me interested and can certainly eat up hours of night time when I need to be quiet for sure. Could I ever produce something of such consistent quality as warrant publishing? I'm not sure. What I do know is that the lovely G has stumped up several hundred precious bawbees to enrol me onto a writing course to help me understand what kind of opportunities there might be, to find out if I can write consistent, lengthy, good quality stuff and what kind of writing suits me best and to get me critical, professional feedback on the possibility that there may be something to this writing caper.

Back to school for me then...........{and it's all your fault}

Crivens! Jings! Help ma Blog!

At least hopefully the punctuation might improve!

see you later.......

Listening to Talking Heads, 'Lifetime Piling Up'

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Beautiful She sleeps.........


Hullo ma wee blog,


I stretch slowly as my eyes open, enjoying the feel as muscle slowly tightens to push nights sleep away. Dawn is come and the lovely G is warm beside me. Beautiful she sleeps, her face is perfect peace. Hair, tousled and spread around her, billows softly across jaw and pillow. Beneath, closed eyes stretch long lashes down to kiss her cheek. I gaze in awe at a face so comfortingly familiar yet so exciting and can't resist the urge to reach and push a stray hair from her face. Still sleeping, she frowns and her expression turns soft pout, the gentlest of breathy whimpers crosses her dreaming lips. A hand comes up to touch her nose and, drained of energy, is left beside her face. She shrugs covers closer around her, her other hand touches mine and clasps me instinctively. Connected, I lay perfectly still, watching and content. Smiling, as beautiful, she sleeps.

see you later

Monday, 22 February 2010

A Cinema Sunday.............


Hullo ma wee blog,

Today we took off for Edinburgh to make best use of our 'unlimited' monthly tickets for cineworld. We enjoyed a couple of marvellous films and a decent wee lunch in between! All things said, its been a good day.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either of these movies to you. Both are a feast for the eyes, ears and heart. Both are brilliantly cast, superbly written and directed and credibly performed. Both are a couple of hours that pass in a flash.

Invictus tells of Nelson Mandelas use of The Springbok national rugby team to unite South Africa in overcoming the stranglehold of entrenched attitudes left by apartheid and in establishing South Africas international credentials. A great depiction of the ideal of politics.

The Last Station covers the last year of Tolstoys life and the tangled threads of love, greed and politics.



See you later.

Listening to Duffy 'Warwick Avenue'

Sunday, 21 February 2010

153 Sqn. 20th and 21st Feb 1945 - Dortmund/Duisburg



These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

The raids against Dortmund (20th Feb) and Duisburg (21st Feb) were linked in that for each it was their final major Bomber Command attack. Because of adverse weather, specific targets at Dortmund were not identifiable, and results were inconclusive. However, nightfighters were very active: among those shot down was NN 785 (P4-2ndD) on only its second operation, which crash-landed at Stefansbogge, near Hasslinghausen, some 10 miles south-west of Dortmund. Four Canadians, including F/Lt Holman the pilot, his navigator, bomb-aimer and rear gunner, survived to become POW's. Four others (three of them RAFVR, including a second pilot, P/O Peter Thorne, whose name appears nowhere else in squadron records) were killed.


Airborne 2125 20Feb45. Cause of loss not established. Crashed at Stefansbogge. Those killed were taken to the Hauptfriedhof at Dortmund. They have been subsequently re-interred in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. F/L W.Holman RCAF Inj P/O P.Thorne (P2) KIA Sgt A.Martin KIA F/O R.C.Taylor RCAF Inj WO2 V.S.Reynolds RCAF Inj F/S A.J.Burton RCAF KIA F/S E.S.Neill RCAF KIA F/S A.D.Kall RCAF Inj F/L W.Holman, F/O R.C.Taylor, WO2 V.S.Reynolds and F/S A.D.Kall were confined in Hospital due injuries until Liberation. No PoW Nos.

The attack on Duisburg firstly concentrated on a synthetic oil plant which, being successful, was switched by the master-bomber to the rail marshalling yard. Fighter flares were seen, but defensive measures were confined to a heavy box barrage.

No Squadron losses were recorded on this mission.


Night Fighter Tactics - Schräge Musik.

Schräge Musik, derived from the German colloquialism for "Jazz Music" (the German word "schräg" literally means "slanted" or "oblique"; it also has a secondary meaning of "weird", "strange", "off-key" or "abnormal" as in the English "queer"), was the name given to installations of upward-firing cannon mounted in night fighters by the Luftwaffe and Japanese Imperial Navy during World War II. This allowed them to approach and attack British bombers from below, where they would be outside the bomber crew's field of view. Few bombers of that era carried defensive guns in the ventral position.

Schräge Musik
Wide-scale adoption began in late 1943, and in 1944 a third of all German night fighters carried upward-firing guns. The Revi 16N gunsight was modified to allow the pilot to aim at the target by placing a reflecting mirror above the pilot’s head, while the sight itself was further to the rear. An increasing number of these installations used the more powerful 30 mm calibre, short-barreled MK 108 cannon, such as those fitted to the Heinkel He 219. The installation contributed significantly to the successes of the German nightfighter force in the winter of 1943-1944. The definitive night fighter version of the Messerschmitt Me 262, the Me 262B-2, was also designed to carry such an installation, but none were built before the end of the war.

Schräge Musik proved to be most successful on the Jumo 213 powered Ju 88G-6, which was both fast and manoeuvrable. Using the Schräge Musik (or Schrägwaffen, as it was also called) required precise timing and swift evasion; a fatally damaged bomber could fall directly upon the night fighter who had just shot it down if the fighter could not quickly turn away. The He 219 was particularly prone to this; its high wing loading left it unmanouevrable, and the 61-victory night fighter ace Manfred Meurer lost his life 21/22 January 1944 as a Handley Page Halifax bomber he had just shot down fell upon his He 219.

Handley Page Halifax

Saturday, 20 February 2010

An anniversary


Gadgirth Brig by Phil Williams {creative commons licence}

Hullo Dad,

It's a year today since you died. I miss you so much, you old bugger! It really hurts sometimes you know? But I know I'm being selfish when I say that. I know that it was your time, you were desperately tired and there was no way back. I'm really glad you waited for us to be there. I was so far away when Mum died and that was hard to take. I'm glad too that Gordon changed his plans and got to the hospital and that he grabbed Adam and brought him with him. Although you were heavily sedated you were able to open an eye when Gordon said we were there and your breathing changed when I stroked your head. You could only stay a moment or two but I'll always hold them close. At the end it was all the Robertson boys together. I know you would have loved that.

You know, Gordon and I worried so much about you and Mum. You were so frail compared to her and we worried how we would cope with her blindness if anything happened to you. She seemed set to go on forever. You certainly threw us a flanker on that the pair of you. Then you broke your hip but were still determined to be independent. We knew you couldn't cope on your own and that's why there was usually one or other of us with you every day. We made a good team the three of us and we were still able to have a laugh even through the strain. It's brought Gordon and I even closer, which is great.

I was so relieved when we got you into sheltered housing - and still in the village. It was touch and go even though we never told you. Gordon fought so hard for you on so many things. He's so strong. I wish I was more like him. It gave you the best last 6 months I think. We couldn't accept the alternative which is why we pushed so hard. I know you loved your wee flat and the care you got there. I can't believe you set off the smoke alarm three times when you fell asleep with something on the stove and had the whole place evacuated with doctors, fire brigade and paramedics at the scene of your 'crime'. I definitely understood why you didn't tell us until the manager spoke to me. You looked so guilty once it was out. Like a wee boy caught in a fib. We had a row and then we laughed and I made you promise to stick to soup. I knew I would never get you to stop all together. I never told Gordon for weeks by the way and I made sure he had just had a good dinner and a pint {and was miles away} just in case.

G and I are glad we spent that last Christmas day with you. You were brilliant and made it unforgettable. She misses you as badly as I do I think. She hears you often and says it helps. I hear you sometimes, but not as often as I'd like. You come most when I'm in the car. It reminds me how we both love driving. I miss our chats. I miss the Ayrshire dialect the way we talked it. I still have it close. You made it sicca pairt o me.

My soups getting more like yours. G says I'm more like you now in lots of ways but somehow seems to imply that's not always a good thing.........you'll have to ask her about that yourself though.

I miss your advice. Miss the way you could break problems down and make them simpler. It's been so hard. I'm glad you weren't here to see me made redundant, especially the way it happened. You would have been frantic, especially the state I was in. I was so angry. I was in a mess for a while but things are a bit better and we are moving on. G and I are strong together and she's been incredible. I'm so lucky.

I try to keep a sense of humour going. You were able to laugh through some horrendous stuff over your last 18 months. That's my inspiration and I hope I can live up to it. You were always my hero but I could never tell you. I didn't really understand properly until after you were gone anyway. Bloody typical. I am glad that I was always able to tell you that I loved you. I'm glad I hugged you every time we met and and every time we parted. I can still feel your arms around me, still feel your stubble on my cheek. Still hear you say "see ya later, Ally Gator"

There's a million things I want to say Dad. But I have to go......

see you later.

The wee yin.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Silence Of The Drams........


Greenan Castle, Ayr.

Hullo ma wee blog,

It seems I've been abandoned to a rare night of solitude with the lovely G being off to see The Noisettes in concert in Edinburghs fair toon with a bunch of colleagues from work. I was given the chance to go but don't really fancy them for some reason. {taste probably}

So here I am all alone in Robertson Towers, the servants have the night off and the drawbridge is set to auto for when the lovely G's carriage approaches. { I hope she makes it before midnight, that whole pumpkin and mouse things is so frightfully passe don't you think.....} Night is drawing near with cold promise on her lips and may arrive bedecked with coat tails of softest white {according to the BBC weather report that is.}

I have set some logs upon the fire and descended to the kitchen in the bowels of chez nous to rustle up some notably creative dish suitable for a man with a taste for fine wine and time to spare in the making. A solitary dinner awaits. I have a notion for some liver perhaps. I have an excellent Chianti breathing softly as it gently comes to life in the corner .

Not so sure about the fava beans though.....


It would be a good night too for an old horror film and a wee Singleton of Dufftown or a Dalwhinnie single malt. Perhaps Boris Karloff as 'The Mummy' or Bela Lugosi as 'Dracula'. A memory of 'Friday night is horror night' late night TV as a youngster. Luckily, I have an extensive DVD collection too.

Don't worry about rushing home my love.

Unless of course the music you hear is from the children of the night........

{now where did I put that insurance policy?}

see you later

Listening to Chopin 'Nocturne in C minor'

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A photo for Kat


Hullo ma wee blog,

A challenge from one of the blogs I follow to post a favourite photo of spring or summer. This one Loch Leven looking towards Ballachulish with the Pap of Glencoe on the left. A favourite spot. {Ballachulish. Gaelic - town on the narrows, pronounced Baal a hoolish}

For you Kat, with my compliments.

and a wee song to go along with it.....




see you later

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Parcels In The Post


hullo ma wee blog,

Its was a busy day the other day for the local postie as he had to lug two books and a nice parcel of photographs to the door. It made a nice change from bills anyway, looking from this side of the doorstep.

In search of more, and particularly relevant info on 153 Squadron, I had found and ordered a couple of books off the internet; 'Wingspan' by 153 Squadron leader JW Gee and 'Nothing heard since takeoff - The story of a 153 Squadron Lancaster crew' by Ronald Hayne. the story of a plane and crew lost over occupied Slovakia. The last a particularly poignant story for me as one of the men lost was from Dalmellington, a small Ayrshire village near where I was brought up and where I spent 20 years playing in the village band. But made more poignant as he was a member of 137 {Ayr} Sqn Air Training Corps, which he and Dad served in at the same time and so would have known each other well. {I also joined 137 Sqn ATC many years later and was involved for some 3 years during my 'maybe I want to join up like my mate' phase}

Also delivered was a bundle of old Robertson family photo's that I had given my Aunt Helen - me seeming to be the repository of much of the family archive, I had taken them down for her to look at a while back as when I had mentioned I had them she said that she never remembered seeing them anywhere within the family since she was a wee girl and had long considered them lost. I left them with her and she had arranged for copies to be made before sending the originals, and some very nice copies, back to me with a lovely card. Hopefully I will be able to upload some of them if I can ever get my laptop and our antiquated old scanner to talk to each other

That night too brought a further surprise as the lovely G came home from work with a copy of 'Lancaster, the 2nd World War's Greatest Bomber' by Leo McKinstry, a lovely and very detailed history of the plane from its inception to its end of service with the RAF in 1956.

So, plenty to read in keeping up with info for the blog.

Ach, what are you groaning about...........

see you later.

Listening to Lily Allen 'who'd have known'

Fear. Reflected..




As I become more and more engrossed in researching the 153 Squadron posts covering Dads last few months of WWII  I come upon the stark reality of  loss of life. I'm trying to understand how these men managed to come to terms with the fear that must have been part and parcel of daily life then. To be honest, living as I do in an age where danger isn't part of my existence, I've been struggling to understand how anyone could cope with having to face prolonged fear, and I mean fear, not the anxiety that's the closest I can find to relate to it from my place down the years, cloaked in modern comforts and affectations, protected by nurture, education and lack of experience.

I'll never forget the first time I walked right up to the end of a Lancaster, past the twin dorsal fins and with Dads rear gun turret coming properly into view. I remember that frisson of boyish excitement, the pull of an adults curiosity and a very acute personal sense of sadness and regret that I was doing this without him beside me to ask the questions that would obviously come up. The ground crew - now I know to call them 'erks' - working on 'Just Jane' at East Kirkby Air Museum had waved me over the barriers on request that quiet afternoon and had simply returned to their work, leaving me to it with a plea to 'scarper sharpish' if anyone else came in as they weren't strictly supposed to let the public get so close. "It's the only way to see the tail gunners position though so come on in." Just a middle aged man with a camera and a story of a relative who flew in these planes long ago.


'Just Jane' East Kirby's iconic Lancaster.

For them, just another day. For me something quite different.



I approached the Lancaster from the front. I knew what one looked like, its iconic image had been welded into my little-boy-long-ago fantasies of 'playing war' from a hundred half remembered films and books. {Though I didn't know then my Dad had been part of the story.} The reality of getting close to one was different. Clearly from an older age, it reared up, enormous, solidly propped on its front wheels, wings stretched wide across my view, holding out four huge engines, three propeller blades like swords 'en-garde' to protect each one. Above me, the perspex panel of the bomb-aimers position stared back blank and dispassionate, inviting neither respect or approbation, a mute witness to sights untold. Higher still the two guns of the front turret pointed gently upwards and beyond, the bubble of the pilots canopy sat high off the ground. The gaping belly of the aircraft was shown to me with the same message a scorpion gives when it lifts its tail overhead. 'Stay away. I mean business.' Today though, with its bomb bay open and a trolley of tools underneath, any threat was moot and faded, gone to the vets. I passed slowly, curiously, under the wing and down the flank, sentimentally running two fingers down its skin, noticing the flush rivets holding the dark metal together, on below the turret of the mid upper gunner poking up above me and past the stark metal ladder and the dark opening that let crewmen enter their frightening world. I noticed for the first time the reality that while Dad would have turned left, climbing over the internal spar of the tail to reach his place, the others would all have turned right.

My walk to, and then along the side of this plane had turned it from icon to reality. I could feel the strength and undeniable presence of its bulk, could smell the tyres and the oil from the engines. Rubber, heat and old smoke. It gleamed pristine in a way that something 70 years old shouldn't do. It said, "I am still here. I am still ready."  Every angle and plane gleamed, light reflected and shadow highlighted detail not normally seen; door handle; engine port access points; suspension struts; hydraulic pipes; exhausts long coloured with an engines heat. I stopped and looked back along the side and up over the starboard wing and saw its shape created to catch the lift, minimise the drag, to carry the weight of a full bomb load, the cowling over an engine hunched still with power yearning to be released. An old athlete still on the blocks.



I came around the dorsal fin and there was the pod holding the rear gun, the perspex bubble where my father would have sat. No wonder they called it "tail end Charlie". He must have felt like he was sitting in a glass bubble outside at 20,000ft. The thought made my blood run cold, a feeling which remained as I got closer and saw the reality of that tiny space filled with the mechanism to control the two guns that gaped evil mouths at head height. I noticed strangely, although the rest of the aircraft had mainly been above me, fate had delivered the point I wanted to see most at practically waist level. The turret sat overhanging the rear wheel and I could see now some of the things Dad had told me about before he died; the steel doors which closed him off from the rest of the crew and behind which he had to hang up his parachute due to lack of space, the perspex panel in front of him which he had removed to improve vision even though it nearly froze him to death, the chutes which funnelled the used cartridges out of the aircraft.He'd spoken about the lack of space for his legs with all the hydraulics for the guns and turret and the tiny seat he would sit on for eight to ten long hours sometimes. How difficult would it have been to get out of there quickly had the need arose, stiffened by hour after hour of relentless, bitter cold of high altitude in the unheated turret?



I turned my back to the plane and stood close in beside the turret trying to replicate his position and I began to feel his fear of flying low level over land or sea, skipping waves, treetops and telegraph poles at 200mph, seeing danger only when it had passed, aware of how much might still be ahead, how speed would be frighteningly exaggerated close to ground or water. I could feel his isolation and understand how wonderful it must have been to be high above the ground, above the clouds and feeling like it was just you all alone in perfect solitude. How sometimes he felt closer to God. How, with up to 1000 planes close by in the dark, he feared being hit by other aircraft. How his stomach lurched when they hit the slipstream of another plane or the Lanc leaped upwards when the bombs  released. I thought how literal was the 'blind' panic of being coned in searchlights and I saw that while the rest of the crew looked forward he looked only back. How he was the last one home. I began to understand where he could look for danger and why he feared what was happening behind those doors where he couldn't turn to see or what lurked beneath his feet on dark nights. I wondered how he must have felt knowing that when a fighter attack came it would almost certainly come from behind. I wondered if he knew as I now did that the casualty rates for tail gunners was almost 70%.  70%?  My stomach knotted melodramatically. How could any human being cope with that level of stress?  That was when I began to think about how much they all had to be fearful of, how long a flight could be and how those men could sustain control not just across one mission but repeated over days and weeks and months of terrible experience.

There were many strains on them, many ways for fear to manifest itself or to have to be coped with beyond the actual mission itself; the fear of repeated selection for missions, of long hours between finding yourself listed on battle orders for the day, mission briefings and take off, anxious waits for clearance to go - sometimes crewed up sitting on taxy ways waiting ages for a green light to show from the caravan at the end of the runway, wishing it was over - and the more insidious fears; fear of being seen to be afraid, having to bottle it up to crew, family and loved ones to protect them, fear of men who showed signs of breaking or broke under the strain to be classed as LMF [lacking moral fibre] - mercifully few under the circumstances. What had it felt like seeing losses of men and machine posted, seeing belongings cleared and beds lying empty, in new faces arriving.

Numbers seemed to be important markers - getting past the psychological 5th mission to become an experienced crew seemed inordinately important and the insidious perception of higher risk of disaster when nearing the end of a tour of 30 ops as the law of averages swung against survival. A few good experiences could reduce tension by inspiring confidence while just as conversely a run of narrow escapes could practically debilitate or give someone 'operational twitch'. To cling to an irrational belief that it 'wouldn't be you', but some unknown other crew who's 'number was up' was what kept men going. Language hid the reality of an arbitrary death. "Going for a burton", "bought it", "had it" and "getting" - or "gone for the chop" are familiar phrases to me from a Dad who habitually used language learnt in those days but applied it in much different situations in later life.



Some turned to religion, some turned away. Many turned to alcohol and boisterous games or childish pranks when drunk to deaden the senses, and to some extent a great deal of leeway was given to the men in recognition of the high levels of strain. Many turned to human comforts and the release that casual sex would bring. Some turned to superstition with carrying of emblems or tokens, or in actions and routines that had to be religiously carried out. Many touched the aircraft - some peed on the back wheel before leaving - or repeated movements, phrases or prayers; quietly took bags in which to privately collect their vomit. Some wrote songs and poetry, told jokes or smoked desperately, talked about anything other than what was uppermost in their minds, looking ahead only to the successful conclusion of another 'do'; avoiding any long term planning and trying to put thoughts of others out of mind for the time being to be able to deal with the reality of the coming nights work. I felt the bond between the crew that had been described to me. How shared experience and the need to survive depended on each other and allowed - needed even - confinement of closest emotional contact within the 7 crew members and exclusion of others, especially those at risk of contaminating you with LMF. I began then to understand the lack of compassion that could be shown to those poor wretches who simply ran out of courage.

This is in direct contrast to our culture today where we want to get everything out in the open as a means of understanding. A culture where you never have to cope on your own. The culture of the victim where responsibility is shared as a means to help minimise or deny involvement and especially to avoid culpability. It was very different where the reality of war and societies acknowledgement of it, was so close and so much more personal than now. Their previous generation had gone through WWI and reminders of that sat in family photographs of those lost or damaged 'doing their duty' - not something that would have been considered unusual then like it is today. There was an infinitely greater expectation for people to do their duty than now, where we question everything and everything is held up for critical and inconclusive review.



I find it hard to reconcile the father I knew with the youth who looks back at me from the few wartime photos I have, even though some confirmation came from Dad himself. I can't see the quiet, gentle, peaceful man that was my father, but what he experienced can't be denied. It was a different world. Perhaps that's what made him who he was, but perhaps even more there is mileage in the sentiment of  a small embroidered plaque in Scampton Church where services were held.

Dated 1945 it says simply:

Through these portals go the bravest of men: Always frightened but never afraid.

see you later.

Listening to:

Monday, 15 February 2010

Dear Tech Support...............


Hullo ma wee blog,

I have been thinking of making changes to my operating system so I contacted our wonderful Technical Support people to see if they could do anything to help me. They gave me some invaluable information which has helped inform my choices. This is probably more critical information for some of you out there rather than others but I thought I would share with you all just in case.

Here's the information I gave them which describes the issues I have been experiencing for some time.

DEAR TECH SUPPORT.

I have been using your system for several years now and find that I am experiencing some difficulties which I hope you can support with a resolution.

I originally installed Girlfriend 1.0 and over time I successfully upgraded through versions 2.0 to 7.0. I then installed Fiance 1.0 and after a fairly short and trouble free period I installed the optional Wife 1.0 upgrade to this system. Its at this point that things slowly began to go wrong.

I found that Wife 1.0 began unexpected child processing which took up a huge amount of time and resources. In addition to this, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all my other programmes and can be found constantly scanning programmes in security mode. This means that applications such as Golf 6.0, Fishing 3.1, Footie 1.0, Beer and Buddies 4.1 and Farting 3.0 are no longer able to function at their original speeds and frequency. I have tried but failed to find any means to keep Wife 1.0 in the background while trying to run these favourite applications.

I have tried to go back to Girlfriend 7.0 but have not been able to uninstall Wife 1.0 no matter what I do.

Can you please advise.

THE RESPONSE

Dear Troubled User,

This is a very common problem that many male users complain about. Many people upgrade from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0 under the misapprehension that this is just a utilities and entertainment system. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Wife 1.0 IS A FULL OPERATING SYSTEM and has been carefully designed to run EVERYTHING.

It is impossible to delete Wife 1.0 and return to Girlfriend 7.0. It is not possible to uninstall or purge the programme files from your system once installed. You cannot go back to Girlfriend 7.0 as Wife 1.0 is programmed not to allow this.

Please consult your Wife 1.0 manual under Warnings-Alimony-Childmaintenance.

We recommend you keep Wife 1.0. There are several things you can try to improve the situation. I suggest you install the background application Yes Dear to alleviate software augmentation. the best course of action is to enter the command C/:APOLOGISE as you will have to give the APOLOGISE command before the system will return to normal anyway. Wife 1.0 is a very good system but it can be high maintenance. Wife 1.0 comes with several support programmes which are highly useful such as Cook It 3.0, Clean and Sweep 2.0. and Bill Processing/Payment 1.5 but you do need to be very careful how you use these programmes. Improper use will invariably result in the auto launch of Nag-Nag 9.0 which can seriously affect your use of any other systems. If this happens you will have to buy additional support programmes to install on to your Wife 1.0. Most effective bolt on supports are Flowers 1.0 and Diamonds 5.5, although Jewelery 2.1 and Abject Grovelling 9.0 are also worth considering.

WARNING - DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES INSTALL SECRETARY WITH SHORT SKIRT 3.3 OR GLAMOROUS FEMALE FRIEND 2.1 Wife 1.0 is programmed to reject these and this may cause irreparable damage to the operating system and/or user.

We hope this clarifies the situation.
Best of luck
Tech Support

see you later.......

Listening to Police 'Every Step You Take'

Sunday, 14 February 2010

153 Squadron, 14th February 1945 - Chemnitz/Gardening



These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

The following night after Dresden, 14th February, the squadron supplied 9 aircraft to join a raid of 797 aircraft on the city of Chemnitz, again deep in eastern Germany and not far from Dresden, which received its first major Bomber Command attack, but due to extensive cloud cover, allowing the use of sky-marking techniques only, bombing proved mainly scattered and ineffective with the bombs falling predominantly on open countryside. The group left Scampton at 2000hrs and included 5 crews who had returned from the Dresden raid only 13 hrs previously. These crews recorded some 19 hours operational flying in just 32 hours and must have been both physically and mentally exhausted to have spent so much time under the strain of combat conditions.

The Squadron suffered another loss when NN 803 (P4-2ndO) crashed over East Germany, whilst on its first operation - in fact, it had recorded only 64 hours of total flight time prior to take-off. The crew, on only their third operation, comprising F/Lt Clem Mills with 4 fellow Canadian and 2 RAFVR members were all killed.

Aircraft NN803 was delivered to 153 Sqdn 3 Feb 1945. Both Air Gunners and 19 year old F/O MacDonald, one of the youngest serving Canadian Navigators, are buried in the Berlin 1939-45 War Cemetery. The others have no known graves. F/L C.R.Mills RCAF KIA Sgt J.J.O'B Heady KIA F/O L.A.MacDonald RCAF KIA F/O R.S.Stanzel RCAF KIA Sgt W.H.Wicks KIA F/S J.H.wilson RCAF KIA F/S C.J.A.Caryl RCAF KIA "

14th February - Kiel Bay

Mines were placed in the harbour approaches. No combats were reported. A hang-up of one mine in PB 786 (P4-2ndQ) flown by F/O Bishop defied all attempts at release, so was taken back causing considerable alarm to the F/E (Jack Syme) who landed "with his fingers in his ears". Responsibility for disarming the rogue mine fell upon the resident Royal Naval Armament Supply Officer, whose posting to Scampton ensured expert technical oversight of all aspects of the mining activity. Landing with a bomb on board was not what the aircraft was designed to do and not something crews looked forward to as this generally meant that the bomb release had been activated and the rogue item could effectively drop at any time. Serious effort would have been made in flight to dislodge the misbehaving bomb to avoid this stressful and potentially lethal situation. To successfully complete a mission and return home in this dangerous condition must have been an additional torture on the crew knowing that the most dangerous time would be just when they should be reaching the safety of touchdown at home base.

Before take-off, crews were made aware that bad weather would lead to closure of Scampton, and that diversion orders could be expected. After an uneventful drop, such orders were issued and with one exception, crews landed where directed. In PA 168 (P4-G) radio reception was so poor that by mischance, W/Op Tom Jones misread the co-ordinates, causing his navigator, F/O Denis MacDonald to give pilot F/Lt Bill Langford a course to take them toward southern England. On re-checking his data, Tom saw and corrected his error; the course had accordingly to be amended towards an airfield set in a mountainous area of Scotland. After a considerable time, with fuel tanks menacingly low, they saw a circle of lights in the murk below. Prudently, Bill Langford used the emergency 'Darkie' channel, and after confirming that he could see the perimeter lights, was given permission to land. They found they were at Full Sutton, in Yorkshire - the home of 77 Squadron (Lancashire's Own), who were equipped with Halifaxes.

German ME 110.

On eventual return to base, they found that the Effects Officer, had already impounded their belongings, but they were able to get them back.

Should a crew fail to return from operations, and no information was forthcoming that they had landed elsewhere, it became the immediate duty of the station "Effects Officer" first to list and then to impound their personal possessions, and to remove them into safe custody. Any individual who subsequently re-appeared could reclaim his possessions - otherwise, after reasonable time, they were transferred to the official RAF Effects Branch and eventually released to the man`s next of kin. The need for an Effects Officer, although prudent and necessary to avoid "affinching" or "liberation" of a missing colleague`s belongings, was inevitably likened to the approach of the grim reaper! Woe betide anyone who had loaned a missing man a book (or anything else) that did not bear evidence of his ownership. Frequent confrontations occurred, particulary in cases of shared accommodation; but once the Effects Officer impounded an item, it virtually became irrecoverable.

Tom Jones was duly disciplined by the Signal's Leader for "lack of diligence". Such was life on wartime RAF stations

This one goes out to the one I love..........



Hullo ma wee wife,

My darling, wonderful, lovely G.

This is for you.

It's exactly where I am.

Sonnet 29.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

I love you forever and four weeks.

Happy Valentines Day....

Alistair.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

153 Sqn. Feb 13th 1945 - Dresden


Dads Crew - Dad bottom right.

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

On 13th February, 15 aircraft of 153 sqn were sent to attack Dresden. Departure time was 2100 and after climbing clear of the airfield they made for the bomber stream collection point and on out over the coast at beachy head. Although afterwards it became the subject of considerable and continuing debate due to the enormous damage, high civilian casualty rate and that the end of war in Europe was in sight, as far as the crews were concerned this was just another attack in aid of the Russian armies, on which (because of the distance involved), only a comparatively small bomb load could be carried. Thus each crew took 1 x 2,000lb bomb plus 1,800 incendiaries. In clear weather and aided by gale force westerly winds, it took just over four hours to reach and bomb the target. There could be no argument over the effectiveness of the attack - a massive firestorm (more intensive than that on Hamburg in 1943) swept the city, and could be seen from 100 miles by crews on their 650-mile homeward journeys. They had plenty of time to observe. Some would never forget that long night and the desperate struggle home.


The reality of bombing

153 Squadron Leader JW Gee, who flew this mission, gives the following account of the raid in his book 'Wingspan' a history of his wartime career. Dresden was the 13th sortie of his 2nd operational tour.

"The weather was very clear with gale force winds blowing from the west. After we had crossed the coast and set off on our first leg, the wind was so strong that I believe this, combined with other diversionary tactics, confused the Germans so much that they were totally unprepared for the attack. We reached Dresden only four hours and fourteen minutes after take off. The Germans may well have thought that we were just a few Mosquitoes on a spoof attack and not the main bomber force. {the outbound airspeed was exceptional due to the gale force tail winds} Whatever the reason we arrived over Dresden without any opposition. The weather was clear, and the attack so swift and so concentrated that the town was ablaze from end to end in just minutes. The high winds fanned the flames and caused the rapid spread.


A Lancaster drops incendiary bombs

The following wind carried us well over the target further into Germany and after turning for home it seemed ages before we passed the blazing city. We now had the strong wind to battle against on our homeward flight and it seemed that we were making no progress at all. Dresden was still on fire and we could see it for more than forty minutes as we battled against the wind. Our ground speed was 160 miles an hour less than it had been on the outward journey. We struggled westwards, making changes of course here and there to avoid heavily defended areas but always the wind was slowing us down. The sky began to lighten from the east and as dawn was breaking we eventually reached the channel coast. We were running short of fuel and I considered landing at some aerodrome between the coast and Scampton. After talking it over with Charlie Saddler {flight engineer} I decided to press on and we finally reached Scampton and landed at 0705hrs with our tanks registering zero. We had struggled against the wind for five and a half hours of the nine and three quarter hours flight.

So ended my 13th operation and I breathed a sigh of relief. Once again I gave 'U for Uncle' an affectionate pat as I climbed out and stretched my legs before getting on to the crew bus to head for debriefing.

Some of our Lancasters were forced to land away from Scampton due to fuel shortage along with many others from other squadrons. Tom Tobin flying 'W for Willy' switched off two of his engines, feathered the propellers and completed the last few miles to Scampton on two engines in an attempt to save the last of his fuel. He came straight in to land without doing the prescribed circuit with his last few drops of petrol. Tom had done this based on the calculations of his flight engineer. All was well in the end but what a struggle!

Since the war, the pundits, with the benefit of hindsight have been very critical of the bombing of Dresden. Whatever the rights or wrongs, its very easy to be wise after the event. If we had the benefit of hindsight no doubt many things would have been done differently or not at all. Suffice to say that in 1945 we were engaged in total war against the Nazi scourge. As aircrew, we did as we were ordered. To us it was just another mission that we carried out successfully, and we did not think of it as anything else. We were only concerned with winning the war and hopefully surviving to be able to live our lives with our loved ones."

All 153 sqn aircraft returned safely.


Crashed Lancaster

Many of the exhausted crews did not know that within 13 hrs of landing, after debriefing, food and some much needed sleep, the next sortie would be on its way.


A narrow escape

Its a sobering fact that between Dresden and the end of hostilities only some 10 weeks away 40% of 153 Squadrons crews who took part in this raid would not survive the war.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Delicate Sound Of Thunder..........


Or....A short afternoon rant on the telephone..........

Hullo ma wee blog,


While I was busily typing away at the last attempt at a post the telephone rang. It was the lovely G giving me my usual how are you getting on call and checking through some of the day to day stuff that we all deal with; shopping to do, finances, what's going on in each others day - and had I had a hair cut yet. We are off out tonight for a birthday meal with a couple of friends, M and J - M my lorry driving pal with the broken leg and they of the new years blackout post. J and the lovely G travel together by train every day to work in different parts of our fair capital, have found much in common, from a distinctly odd sense of humour to a shared love of a glass or two of wine on the train home on a friday after work to de-stress them after a hard week. {that's their joint excuse anyway}

Before the call ended the lovely G asked me to give one of our credit card companies a call as she had gone online during her lunch break to check that our monthly payments had landed at the right time {wonderfully conscientious is the lovely G!} and that the payment which is generated from my income protection insurance had also been paid. We dont strictly need to pay anything ourselves as the insurance money is more than enough to cover it but we have decided to keep making our {also bigger than needed every month} payments while we have the cash as it will clear the outstanding balance a lot faster yet keeps us able to switch it on or off if we find we need to rather than pay a lump sum up front. She noticed that while our payment was marked 'payment received' the payment from the insurance company was marked 'payment received, thank you'. A small thing, but she found that it irked her that we should not be accorded the same courtesy as an insurance company.

{What can I say, I have obviously trained her well. Either that or she is spending too much time with me! She's younger than I am so its not the 'grumpy old' thing.....}

She decided that she would drop them an email to mention it but when she tried she found that emailing was blocked and a message flagged up that emailing was 'not possible as this account is in collections' please contact us on this number. Irked became irritation as she knows, working in the finance sector, that 'collections' is a euphemism for 'arrears', and that is one place where {and OK, largely down to her} we are not. She also knows, since I am the only name on the account, that they will not speak to her about it.

And so, narked, but still very calm, she explained her concerns to me over the phone and asked me to give them a wee call.

Which I did.....

I rang the number she had given me for the collections dept, and went through the three layers of automated options given to me by a very slow and quiet recording until I reached the level where I was asked to confirm my details, so they could pass me to the most appropriate - i.e. first available - member of the team. And so with some minor irritation - you should know from previous posts by now how I love not speaking to another human being - and no little apprehension of what was about to take place I prepared to answer the security questions on their voice recognition system.

Aye, you read it heart sinkingly correctly, their 'voice recognition' system.

{regular readers should stop reading now, skip the next few paragraphs and fill in the blanks for yourselves. You know what's coming next!}

I'm Scots. I can be broad Scots when I choose and I can be very - I have been told intimidatingly and chillingly - clear when I choose to be. What I don't want to be is completely tee'd off by the time I actually get a hold of the next human to speak to, so I speak calmly and clearly as I give my name, date of birth and post code, my mothers maiden name and a password, even the second time, and the third time. But by then patience is getting as thin as a paupers troosers. After another couple of attempts I am finally connected to the appropriate {and unfortunate} member of their team who advises that to enable him to speak to me and to access the details of my account he has to ask me to confirm certain security details

Quietly and calmly I offer my interpretation of what those questions are going to be and when he indicates that I have won the jackpot, I ask him why I should give him all the same information that I have already given his automated, inconvenient, unfit for purpose, frustrating and ineffectual voice recognition system, and why his company feels this is an effective and appropriate level of customer service. To be fair he launches into the data protection speech very well but falls short in answering why the questions should need to be answered twice - like the security system at the airport post of a couple of months ago - to allow me to get on with discussing what should be a quick and easy to resolve question. He also singularly fails to get the point that his companies automated ability to cheese off their customers even before he gets to speak to them doesn't make my life - or his job - any easier.

But hey, today I'm mellow compared to sometimes and he has an engaging way with him, so I give him some leeway and let him eventually get to the point where he asks me why I am calling in the first place. By now I have been on the phone for nearly 10 minutes. I ask him to pull up the account and ask why if, as he can see, that I am making an overpayment every month and that there is an additional monthly overpayment coming from my insurers that my account is flagged as in collections. To this he mistakenly answers that its company policy when there is a payment being made from 3rd part insurance companies to put a block on the account.

'What do you mean there's a 'block' on the account?'

He tells me that when an insurance payment is made this is usually an indication that the client has no income and to prevent abuse of the card they put a block on the account.

I ask him why this is an appropriate thing to do when the account has never been in arrears, been abused , and is currently receiving more than twice the requested monthly amount.

He can't answer that one so I ask to speak to a manager.

After a moment or two I am put through to someone who is clearly not going to put up with any up-themselves-and-looking-for-an-argument customer's nonsense.

When I hear the frosty response to introducing myself and my query I ask her to hold for a moment. I click my pen twice on the telephone and say to her

"Just to let you know that for absolute clarity I am making a recording of this call for my records."

Then I say thanks for waiting and explain how useful it's been in the past to have an accurate record of any conversation.

" My old editor used to tell me that and I've never forgotten the advice. It's an invaluable help in writing any article"

Two minutes later I put the phone down.

The block on my account has been removed and its no longer being dealt with by collections as we found very quickly that we agreed how inappropriate the company standard response was on an account which has been handled so consistently and so very clearly within the terms and conditions of the account.


What a nice lady!

see you later.......


listening to The Police 'Walking On The Moon'

Sorry to bang on about this again......



But I,m going to. {and I'm not THAT sorry really}

Hullo ma wee blog,

This is a video clip from Channel 4 news where one of our Scots MP's is interviewed on air about the fact that police are investigating possible fraudulent expense claims.

{ Having some recent personal experience of 'fraudulent' expense claims, it kind of grabs my interest}

Jim Devin is a former psychiatric nurse and election agent for MP Robin Cook until his sudden death in 2005, after which he took over the seat

THE CHARGES:

July 2008 - April 2009: Allegedly dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services using false invoices
March 2009 - Allegedly dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery using false invoices

He has been barred by Labour from standing again in connection with other expense claims not connected to these charges, which cannot be reported for legal reasons.

What really grabs me here is the missed point from both parties that 'if' there is the ability to move money from one budget to another, there is certainly an open and above board fiscal process to do this which does not generate a 'receipt' which can then be used to claim back money through expenses. If this is the case, why is that process not being followed? If money which has been claimed on expenses was then physically paid in to another budget there should be a clear audit trail to support this.

State this simple thing, and your ability to support your garbled claim that you did not personally profit from the episode with evidence Mr Devine, and you will immediately come out from the stone you appear to be hiding under and into the light of transparency.

BUT.....

I am struck by the honourable members complete lack of ability to argue his case cogently and how he does not take the opportunity presented to explain reasonably what did happen to the money claimed. To defend himself with 'another MP who I am not going to name told me it was ok' is completely ridiculous, and frankly comes over as naive and childishly suspicious.

He is one of four MPs who are being investigated.

LABOUR MP DAVID CHAYTOR MP for Bury North since 1997

THE CHARGES:

May 2006: Allegedly dishonestly claimed £1,950 for computer services using false invoices
Sept 2005 - Sept 2006: Allegedly dishonestly claimed £12,925 for rent on London property when he was the owner
Sept 2007 - Jan 2008: Allegedly dishonestly claimed £5,425 for renting house in Bury from his mother

Allegedly used daughter as bogus landlady and claimed almost £13,000 expenses in rent on London flat he already owned
Swapped his second home four times in less than three years. Allegedly claimed £5,400 while renting house in August 2007, which belonged to his mother. Not obvious as she'd remarried.


LABOUR MP ELLIOT MORLEY Former agriculture minister, MP for Scunthorpe for 23 years.

THE CHARGES:
April 2004-Feb 2006: Allegedly dishonestly claimed mortgage expenses of £14,428 on Lincolnshire home. March 2006 - Nov 2007: Allegedly dishonestly claimed mortgage expenses of £16,000 on the same house when loan no longer existed. Claimed mortgage interest on constituency home for 21 months after loan repaid. Apologised and said he had repaid the money as soon as he realised his 'mistake'. Said he felt 'terrible' and admitted he should have kept a 'tighter rein'.

Barred by Labour from standing again.

TORY LORD HANNINGFIELD Former pig farmer, leader of Essex County Council and Tory business spokesman in the Lords.
THE CHARGES:
March 2006 - May 2009: Allegedly dishonestly submitted claims for expenses to which he knew he was not entitled. £117,000 claimed for overnight expenses since 2001.
Six charges in total, which focus on numerous claims for overnight expenses for staying in London when he was allegedly driven home in his local authority paid chauffeur driven limo to Chelmsford 46 miles away.

The MP's are also preparing a defence case based on the 1689 'Bill of rights' which defines parliamentary privileges.

This legal dodge by the accused MPs of trying to use this Act of Parliament is disgraceful.
This law has been used down the centuries to safeguard our liberties and to ensure that parliament could operate free from interference from the crown.
{When James II inherited the crown from his brother Charles II, he attempted to overrule parliament by suspending laws and overturning decisions to try and impose catholic supremacy on a protestant nation. After James' exile to France, William of Orange had to agree to sign the Bill of Rights which upheld the primacy of Parliament over the King.}

It basically ended rule by 'the divine right' of kingship in Britain.

Now the MPs facing criminal charges for fiddling their expenses feel they should be able to claim Parliamentary privilege. They are saying that prosecuting them for fraud or theft would be to interfere in the workings of Parliament. They are claiming to have done nothing wrong.

Of course they are innocent until proven guilty. But if they have done nothing wrong why should they be afraid of being judged on the same legal basis as the rest of us?

And, as the eighteenth century lawyer Sir Thomas Fuller declared: "Be you never so high, the law is above you."

Hopefully, that is........


see you later.

listening to Mott the Hoople 'Roll away the Stone'

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Stick to Embroidery......



Hullo ma wee blog,

I'd like to disrespectfully dedicate this to the lady who nearly took the front of the car off yesterday when she pulled in on me far too bloomin' early because she had pulled into the fast lane to overtake without indicating, checking her mirror or realising the car behind was going so much faster than she was and then panicked.

Please learn how big your nice, shiny 4x4 actually is BEFORE coming out on the road!

or,

For Pity's Sake - Don't Drive.....

Nuff said.

see you later....

listening to Talk Talk 'It's my life'

Monday, 8 February 2010

153 Sqn. 8th Feb 1945 - Politz


How not to impress the CO....

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

From Dads squadrons base at Scampton on the 8th February, 15 aircraft were sent to Politz - a small town north-east of Berlin, on the German/Lithuanian border, midway between Stettin (aka Szezcin) and the Baltic sea - which housed a synthetic oil plant; it was also within 30 miles of the advancing Russian forces. Taking off into a cloud base of only 600 feet, the force flew through continuous cloud and atrocious weather until east of Denmark - a nerve-wrecking 2 hour experience. Fortunately, clear skies over the target assisted by a relatively low (i.e.14,000 feet) dropping height enabled a very accurate attack to be mounted; no further supply of oil was produced by Politz.

Naughtily, the homeward flight was routed over neutral Sweden. The Swedes fired A/A but, as noted by P/O Tom Tobin "they aimed to miss by miles."

All aircraft returned safely.

A Lancaster Bomber had a crew of 7 each of whom had specific duties and positions within the aircraft.

Crew accommodation.


Starting at the nose, the bomb aimer had two positions to man. His primary location was lying prone on the floor of the nose of the aircraft, with access to the controls for the bombsight head in front, with the bombsight computer on his left and bomb release selectors {known euphemistically as 'the tit'} on the right. He would also use his view out of the large transparent perspex nose cupola to assist the navigator with map reading. To man the Frazer Nash FN5 nose turret, he simply had to stand up and he would be in position behind the triggers of his twin .303 in guns. The bomb aimer's position contained the nose parachute exit in the floor.


Moving back, on the roof of the bomb bay the pilot and flight engineer sat side-by-side under the expansive canopy, with the pilot sitting on the left on a raised portion of the floor. The flight engineer sat on a collapsible seat (known as a "second dicky seat") to the pilot's right, with the fuel selectors and gauges on a panel behind him and to his right. The pilot had a sheet of steel behind him for protection. This was the sole armour plating on the aircraft.



Bomb aimer position down below
Behind these crew members, and behind a curtain fitted to allow him to use light to work, sat the navigator. His position faced to port with a large chart table in front of him. An instrument panel showing the airspeed, altitude and other details required for navigation was mounted on the side of the fuselage above the chart table.

Navigator position

Towards the cockpit
The radios for the wireless operator were mounted on the left-hand end of the chart table, facing towards the rear of the aircraft. Behind these radios, facing forwards, on a seat at the front of the main spar sat the wireless operator. To his left was a window, and above him was the astrodome, used for visual signalling and also by the navigator for celestial navigation.

Astrobubble

The Bomb Bay - 14,000lb payload
Behind the wireless operator were the two spars for the wing, which created a major obstacle for crew members moving down the fuselage even on the ground. On reaching the end of the bomb bay the floor dropped down to the bottom of the fuselage, and the mid upper gunner's Frazer Nash turret was reached. His position allowed a 360° view over the top of the aircraft, with two .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns to protect the aircraft from above and to the side. The mid-upper gunner had perhaps the most uncomfortable ride of all the crew, as he was seated on a rectangle of canvas that was slung beneath the turret once the gunner had occupied his position. He could be required to occupy this seat for up to eight hours at a time.

The Elsan Chemical toilet
To the rear of the turret was the side crew door, on the starboard side of the fuselage. This was the main entrance to the aircraft, and also could be used as a parachute exit.


At the extreme rear of the aircraft, over the spars for the tailplane, the rear gunner sat in his exposed position in the Rose Rice turret, entered through a small hatch in the rear of the fuselage, and depending on the size of the rear gunner, the area was so cramped that the gunner would often hang their parachute on a hook inside the fuselage, near the turret doors. In the FN20 and FN120 turrets, he had four .303 in (7.7 mm) Brownings, and in the Rose Rice turret he had two .50 in (12.7 mm) Brownings. Neither the mid upper or rear gunner's positions were heated, and the gunners had to wear electrically heated suits to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Many rear gunners insisted on having the centre section of perspex removed from the turret to give a completely unobstructed view.


Tail end Charlie external, note chutes for spent cartridges.

The Sunday Posts 2017/ Hush Hush

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